The importance of parental engagement

Alan Foster WorkshopWith the fallout from cyber-bullying and sexting regularly hitting the front pages - unfortunately in most cases when the ultimate price has already been paid – you would have thought it would be easy to engage parents/careers when it comes to trying to combat the issue. However, this is not always the case, and with Ofsted now recommending that parents attend regular e-safety sessions schools are under increasing pressure.

Trust and understanding...
The difficulties arise because parents/carers don’t know what they don’t know. They are, rightly so, trusting of their children and also feel overwhelmed by some of the new technologies that they are using. Many adults turn to the younger generation to help them sort out their own technical problems and believe that they have a lot more knowledge than they themselves do. This can lead them to feeling vunerable and not wanting to appear as though they don’t understand this technical world around them.

It isn’t always that parents/carers don’t want to get involved, but they need help to understand the issues and how they can affect their children. Often, when you have the opportunity to explain these issues further and to explore them in more detail, it’s as though the ‘penny drops’ and you can see them nodding and beginning to recognise some of the behaviours they have seen in their children. Let’s face it, why would parents/carers understand issues such as sexting? This is a whole new way of ‘courting’ that they themselves would never have experienced. If you don’t understand the issues, then you can’t be expected to help, guide and support.

A classic example that highlights a combination of parents’ trusting their children and not understanding the full implications of their online activity took place at a boarding school recently. A pupil rang her mum to say that a friend of hers had put a post on Facebook to invite friends to a party at his house. He had put a picture of the house, full address, directions and description of the street, house everything - so that people could find it.

Her mum immediately rang the school to report the issue, but the response from the parent whose child has posted the invitation was not one of shock/horror that the boy had posted this information on Facebook, but that he had been told he could only invite a few friends and should never have invited more than about six. They totally missed the implication of what he had done!

This kind of story - alongside the fact that much of a child’s online activity will take place outside of school hours, is why schools working to get parents involved in safeguarding their children (and themselves) online - forms a key part of the new e-safety guidelines.

Education, education, education...
Just as parents/carers may be chasing the next new smart phone, children are always on the look out for the next new app to communicate with friends, and it doesn’t take long for an app to go viral. We can’t expect parents to always be on top of this which is why it is important for them to get that information from a third party; someone who can point them in the right direction to get the information they need, who can teach them the new terminologies and tell them where to go if they need help.

Through attending a school-hosted e-safety awareness session for just 1.5 hours, a couple of times a year, parent/carers can learn all they need to know to raise their own awareness and to not feel as though they are miles behind their children’s knowledge. When this is backed up with regular updates and even parent training courses, they will also feel supported when they tackle the topic with their children. After all, a parent with knowledge and understanding, is a parent with power.

Visit our partners page to find out more about the face-to-face sessions available from Fantastict. You can also find out more about the parent engagement resources and online training for parents available from E-safety Support.

Written by Alan Foster on October 29, 2014 12:12


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